Spoilers for the first two seasons of Homeland below
Season three of Homeland kicks off on Sunday, and one of the biggest questions surrounding the series is the fate of Damian Lewis’ character, Nicholas Brody, who is the number one suspect in the terrorist attack that killed hundreds in the season two finale. With the help of Carrie (Claire Danes), Nicholas Brody fled, breaking Carrie’s heart in the process. Advanced reviews of season three’s opening episode indicate that Brody is still on the run and, in fact, is not even in the first episode (in which Saul has to answer for the terrorist attack, and Carrie takes heat because of her relationship with Brody).
We know from interviews with Damian Lewis that Nicholas Brody’s character was supposed to die twice before on Homeland, but for various reasons (mostly having to do with ratings, and Lewis’ popularity on the show), Brody survived his fate. But how much longer can he survive? It seems clear that Damian Lewis himself thinks that Brody should already be dead, as he suggested in an interview with Men’s Journal:
“I think simply for creative and artistic reasons, the writers want to kill me,” Lewis explains. “There are so many compelling and devastating story lines that would just be great TV and theater. . . The more compromised storytelling is to keep him alive and to keep him bubbling along somehow. It’s the executives who write that version.”
(It’s not the first time this week I’ve heard about Showtime’s meddling. Clyde Phillips, the showrunner on Dexter for the first four seasons, also suggested that no one person ran Dexter: That it was a collaborative effort between showrunner and Showtime executives, which may help explain the past four seasons).
When Homeland began, there were questions about whether Brody was a terrorist or not. Those questions were answered: He was, and now he isn’t. He turned into an informant for the CIA in season two, and by the end of season two, his marriage was over, his kids didn’t trust him, and he became wanted for a major terrorist attack.
Now he’s on the run. He can’t stay on the run forever, and even if Carrie manages to clear his name, he’s useless as an informant, has no chance in hell of reclaiming his political position, and is otherwise a worthless character to the series except for his romantic relationship with Carrie. Is that enough to sustain the character over the course of the entire season?
From Vulture’s interview with showrunner Alex Gansa:
I think that the writing staff was convinced that there was enough story to tell, certainly for the second season, and obviously, by the third season, we’re still telling that story. But I believe there will come a point at which telling that story further is just a case of diminishing return. I don’t know whether that’s going to happen this season, or whether it’s going to happen next season. I think it will be an anticipatory element to the series because, literally, every episode could be Brody’s last.
That’s as close as you’re going to get to an admission from a showrunner that a character’s place on a show is finite. Will it be this season, or next? How much story could there possibly be left to tell? He runs. Carrie clears his name. They reunite, maybe for a short fling. Then his character is cooked. There’s nothing left for him to do. This is not Sons of Anarchy, and Brody is not Clay Morrow. His death is not a question of if, but of when.
Showtime’s president, David Nevins, also spoke on the topic a few months ago, when he was asked if Homeland could outlive Nicholas Brody (or Carrie Mathison):
If you’re going to commit yourself to being unpredictable and going where the story takes you, you’ve got to commit yourself to being unpredictable and going where the story takes you.” So nobody on Homeland is safe or sacred? “Exactly.”
Brody’s death seems like a natural evolution of the the story. I’m confident that he doesn’t make it through season three. How he dies, and under what circumstances, is obviously still an open question, but anticipating his death — dreading it, even — may be one of the driving narrative forces in season three. Both Alex Gansa and Damian Lewis seem to have planted that seed and offered it as one of the more compelling reasons to watch Homeland in season three.
I know I’m in.